Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra, who had bragged on Wednesday that he "doesn't wear a mask - so what", regretted his words this morning.
"My statement on not wearing a mask appears to be a violation of law. It wasn't in line with the sentiment of the Prime Minister. I accept my mistake and express regret. I'll wear a mask. I also appeal to everyone to wear masks and observe social distancing," the Minister wrote in a tweet in Hindi this morning.
On Wednesday, the 60-year-old BJP leader told reporters: "I don't wear a mask in any programme. Isme kya hota hai?'' (so what)." He was replying to a question on why he was not wearing a mask at an event in Indore.
It is mandatory to wear a face cover in public places, according to the government's guidelines on the coronavirus.
MP home minister @drnarottammisra says I don't wear a #Mask later clarified saying because of some breathing problem he cannot continue to wear— Anurag Dwary (@Anurag_Dwary) September 23, 2020
a face mask for a long time @ndtvindia@ndtv@INCMP@INCIndia#COVID19#coronaviruspic.twitter.com/m9D0w7v0pn
Amid a surge in coronavirus cases in India, the country with the second-highest number of cases in the world, PM Modi has been making repeated appeals to people to follow social distancing rules and wear masks. The country's tally crossed 57 lakh cases this morning; over 90,000 patients have died so far.
The Congress latched on to the Madhya Pradesh Home Minister's remark and launched an attack on social media.
"The state's Home Minister has given an open challenge to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Is there anyone who has the courage to take action against him (Mr Mishra). Are rules only for common people?" state Congress spokesman Narendra Saluja tweeted in Hindi yesterday.
Madhya Pradesh has logged over 1.13 lakh cases so far and 2,077 deaths linked to Covid. Indore, one of the state's worst-affected districts, has logged over 20,000 cases.
The Indore Municipal Corporation imposes a fine of Rs 200 on those not wearing a mask.